It is no secret we love Grand Seiko here. Almost all of our editors have one, be it new or vintage. But are we open-minded enough to buy a Grand Seiko with quartz movement?
In a recent article, we answered one of our reader’s questions about spending a significant amount of money on an expensive watch with a quartz movement. The watch we have here today, is a Grand Seiko GMT SBGN005G with a caliber 9F quartz movement. A watch for the traveller that needs a precision piece with the ability of reading the time at a glance in other time zones. There are cheaper watches that offer this functionality of course, but those who appreciate craftsmanship, superb finish and a companion for life might be better off with the watch we have here.
This watch is part of the Grand Seiko Sport Collection, the other two collections are the Elegance and Heritage collection. From there on, all the models have a specific reference number and not a model name. Luckily, Grand Seiko aficionados are creative minds and have given some of the Grand Seiko references nicknames. What to think of the Snowflake or Mt. Iwate, and when it comes to Seiko, there are numerous nicknames. That said, today we are talking about the Grand Seiko GMT SBGN005G. Other watches in the Grand Seiko Sport Collection are the Spring Drive diver models (like the SBGA231 that we reviewed here) and the Spring Drive chronograph models. Compared to those, this GMT looks much more discreet, with ‘just’ an extra hour hand and a 24-hour bezel. The watch has a bit of that Rolex Explorer II flavour because of the steel bezel with black-filled engraved numerals and the Oyster-style bracelet but definitely isn’t a copy.
The first thing to notice about this Grand Seiko GMT SBGN005N is the blue dial with sunburst finish. Upon closer inspection, you will discover the two-tone ring (rehaut) to indicate day & night, where the lower part is grey, and the upper part is dark blue. The extra hour hand, or GMT hand, is bright red and matches the ‘GMT’ printing on the dial. As you can only expect from Grand Seiko, the applied hour markers and razor-sharp hands are facetted. The hour markers are high-polished, and you’ll see that some of them have a different shape. At the end of the hour marker, lume has been applied for better readability in the dark. As always, the hands are a combination of a brushed and polished finish and also filled with lume. The GS logo, as well as the Grand Seiko wording, have been applied at 12 o’clock. Although you could say it is a very clean design, and far from cluttered, a lot is actually happening. You just need to be a bit of a watch nerd to see all these things. Or appreciate them.
The details aren’t limited to the dial, also the case and bracelet show an incredible effort made by Grand Seiko. The finishing of the case is beautiful. The Zaratsu (mirror blade) polishing and satin finished surfaces combine perfectly on the 39mm x 12.1mm case. The design is not as extreme as their models with the 44GS case style (such as the SBGJ201 Mt. Iwate), but very wearable and the level of finish is impressive. The stainless-steel bezel with 24-hour engraving has a satin finish on top and polished surface on the side. The long Zaratsu polished lugs have a nice curve and on the inside of them, you have a small satin finished surface. The case band has a satin brushed finish as well, with the exception of the crown guards, which are polished. The GS signed crown is easy to grasp and is screw-down, to ensure some water resistance. On the case back, you will find the GS medallion of the lion in the center and on the lower half, a few specifications have been engraved. As you know, inside there’s a quartz movement and (unfortunately) there’s no sapphire crystal to show its beauty. Although some people will disagree, as you will – then – also see the battery.
The bracelet on this 39mm Grand Seiko has a brushed finish and a small bevel on the edges. A double pusher folding clasp is used to open and close the bracelet. There is no micro-adjustment possible on the GS signed clasp, instead, you need to work with two half-links in the bracelet itself. You might risk that the bracelet is either a bit too tight or too loose, although everyone has his or her own preference on how to wear a bracelet. Personally, I like them to be rather a bit lose than too tight. Of course, you can also wear a strap on this watch. The case has lug holes, which makes it relatively easy to remove a bracelet yourself.
Inside this watch is a movement from the 9F family, a high-end quartz caliber with GMT function. I don’t want to dive into deep why the 9F movement is worth investigating (you can read about that here and here), but in a nutshell, it is a movement with an accuracy of just +- 10 seconds deviation. Per year. The thermo-compensated movement makes small corrections itself when there are changes in temperatures. The 9F advances the date instantly at midnight, within a blink of the eye. Also interesting is that the 9F caliber is entirely assembled by hand and a watchmaker can fine-tune the movement by hand using the small regulation switch. The movement can be set by unscrewing the crown and then pulling it into the second position. In the first position, you will advance or reverse the independent hour hand, as a true GMT watch should have in my opinion. The local time is displayed by the minute and hour hand, while the GMT hand indicated the home time. When setting the independent hour hand, the running seconds will just continue, so there’s no stopping of the time. No loss of accuracy there.
Let me be honest here: the Grand Seiko GMT SBGN005G wasn’t love at first sight for me. That doesn’t have anything to do with the movement being quartz or battery operated, but with the case shape and dimensions. The design of the watch isn’t as outspoken as a SBGJ201 Mt. Iwate or a SBGA211 Snowflake for example. Or Gerard’s beautiful SBGW235 (he will spend an article on it in the near future I hope). The appreciation for this watch started to grow on me really quickly though when I examined the shape and different finished surfaces. The size of 39mm x 12.1mm is very modest for a sports watch, but being low-profile is often also the characteristic of the Grand Seiko collector. It is a very convenient and elegant size, the 24-hour bezel and GMT hand give the watch a welcome edge. They add a bit of ‘cool’ to it. Put it on a NATO strap and you’re suddenly that adventurous timezone traveller instead of the business traveller that runs from meeting to meeting. Perhaps more than the aforementioned other Grand Seiko models, the SBGN005G is the watch you wear to satisfy functional needs (high accuracy quartz and a GMT) combined with an appreciation for superb finishing.
The blue dial with sunburst finish looks amazing on the wrist. Even though the watch feels a bit small on my 18cm wrist, it is comfortable and practical. I would say this is a perfect everyday watch for the (business) traveller with a fetish for being on time. As written above, the bracelet is of great quality and beautifully finished, but lacks fine-adjustment (other than using half-links). I could see myself wearing this on a NATO strap though, or a nice vintage looking leather strap to add a bit of personalization.
The price of the Grand Seiko SBGN005G is €3200 (same price in USD). And for that kind of money, you can indeed also buy a mechanical watch, but look at that 9F quartz movement. I just wish they’d put a sapphire crystal in the case back to admire it. Because frankly, showing the beauty of the hand made 9F quartz movement would save a lot of discussion with the non-believers.
More information here.
Ever since he was a young child, Robert-Jan was drawn to watches, even though it were digital Casio and quartz Swatch models at the time. In the mid-1990s, his interest increased when he started to read about mechanical watches in... read more